Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.
By Becca Owens
Eating disorders are common in the US — it’s estimated that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will suffer from an eating disorder at some point during their lifetime.1 The term eating disorder is a collective term for several specific disorders, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, among others.
Someone suffering from an eating disorder may have trouble pinpointing what led to their struggles, but the reality is that eating disorders are complicated and often have biological, sociocultural and psychological roots to their development.2 Something has led to disordered or disturbed eating practices, and the best way to heal is to bring the underlying struggle into the light and seek help.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is an effort to highlight the commonality of eating disorders and promote health and healing for those suffering from them. By hosting events all over the country to encourage healthy body image and educate the public, National Eating Disorders Awareness Week helps diminish the stigma commonly associated with the struggles surrounding these medical conditions.
Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders
There is a range of specific disorders under the broad category of eating disorders, and there is a range of symptoms associated with each one. However, there are some key triggers to watch for if you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder, including the following:
- Extreme weight loss
- Fear of gaining weight
- Preoccupation with eating habits and caloric intake
- Working out excessively
- Weighing yourself at an abnormal frequency
- Binge eating
- Vomiting after eating
- Avoiding situations where eating takes place
- Always having an excuse not to eat
- Maintaining strange eating habits or rituals
- Taking laxatives
- Preoccupation with body image2
Many people who suffer from an eating disorder will go to great lengths to hide it from their loved ones. They may become master manipulators and be skilled in providing excuses for their behavior. However, you know your loved one best, so if you notice changes in their eating habits, physical appearance or demeanor, trust your instincts and don’t be fooled by excuses.
How to Participate in National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
One of the main hallmarks of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is education — educating yourself and educating others. A great way to participate in the week is to take a step toward better understanding how eating disorders develop and how they affect those around you. Unfortunately, it’s common to hear people joke about behaviors that are extremely detrimental, like purging or binge eating. Once we recognize that eating disorders are more common than we might realize, we can learn how to be more careful with how we speak about sensitive topics that can be triggers for others.
During National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, many organizations will be hosting specialized events in the community. Another great step toward awareness is to find a way to participate in an event. Volunteer your time, or just support the event by showing up and being involved. In particular, college campuses are likely to host spotlight events for students and the surrounding community, so if there’s a college campus near you, there’s likely an event taking place. If you don’t find an event in the works in your area, take it upon yourself to host one or take time during the week to share what you’ve learned with others and support those you love who may be struggling.
Help for Those With Eating Disorders
Although eating disorders can bring fear, anxiety and a sense of being out of control, the good news is that they are treatable and help is available. Many treatment plans include a combination of talk therapy (or individual counseling), ongoing medical care, nutritional counseling and medication.3 At Center for Change, we offer compassionate care for those suffering from eating disorders as well as education and support for how to thrive after treatment.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder or you suspect that they may be, please give us a call on our 24-hour, toll-free helpline. Our goal is always to care for you and your family and equip you for a life of health and well-being.
1 “What Are Eating Disorders?” National Eating Disorder Association, Accessed February 20, 2018.
2 “National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.” Consumer Health Digest, Accessed February 20, 2018.
3 “Eating Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, February 2016.